First up: Toronto FC and Houston take on provincial newcomers


Toronto FC, the last MLS team standing in the 2018 Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League, will be the first team to play in 2019, opening against Panama's CAI at the tiny Estadio Agustin Sanchez two hours before the Houston Dynamo plays Guastatoya in Guatemala City.

Sebastian Giovinco has departed for Saudi Arabia, Gregory van der Wiel left preseason training in the huff, and Jozy Altidore is rehabbing after ankle surgery, so there are a lot of questions surrounding TFC, which has yet to sign a Designated Player to replace Giovinco.

But the Reds, who lost to Guadalajara in the 2018 final in a shootout, should have no problem against CAI, which is making its first appearance in the CCL. Coach Greg Vanney isn't underestimating the team from La Chorrera, located on the Panamerican Highway about 20 miles southwest of Panama City

“Every team in this competition is a seriously threat,” he said. “They're going to be very comfortable playing here in their home stadium, on their home field, and in front of their fans.”

Toronto FC:
Probable XI -- Bono; Morgan, Mavinga, Ciman, Auro; Osorio, Bradley, Delgado, DeLeon, Morrow; Boyd.

2019 Roster (27 players):
Goalkeepers (2): Alex Bono, Caleb Patterson-Sewell.
Defenders (9): Auro, Laurent Ciman (Dijon/FRA), Julian Dunn, Chris Mavinga, Drew Moor, Ashtone Morgan, Justin Morrow, Gregory van der Wiel, Eriq Zavaleta.
Midfielders (12): Jon Bakero, Michael Bradley, Jay Chapman, Aidan Daniels, Marky Delgado, Nick DeLeon (D.C. United), Tsubasa Endoh (Toronto FC II), Griffin Dorsey (Indiana Univ.), Liam Fraser, *Noble Okello (Toronto FC II), Jonathan Osorio, Ryan Telfer.
Forwards (4): Ayo Akinola, Jozy Altidore, Terrence Boyd (Darmstadt/GER), Jordan Hamilton.
*2019 Homegrown signing.

Houston will feature a new central defense -- Honduran veteran Maynor Figueroa and Slovenian Aljaz "Kiki" Struna -- and Argentine Matias Vera is a nice addition in midfield, but Dynamo's strength is again up front with Alberth Elis, Mauro Manotas and Romell Quioto, who combined for 36 goals and 23 assists in 2018.

Like Toronto FC, Houston will be facing a CCL newcomer in Guatemalan provincial team Guastatoya.

“We have seen some footage of them," said Quioto. "They are a team that likes to run. They like to pass over the top and we have to be conscious of that so they don’t catch us by surprise and so we can leave with a positive result.”

Guastatoya-Siquinala Highlights:


Houston:
Probable XI --
Willis; DeLaGarza, Figueroa, Struna, Beasley; Cabezas, Vera, Martinez; Eli, Manotas, Quioto.

2019 Roster (26 players):
Goalkeepers (3): Tyler Deric, Michael Nelson,  Joe Willis.
Defenders (10): DaMarcus Beasley, A.J. DeLaGarza, Chris Duvall (Montreal), Maynor Figueroa (FC Dallas), Alejandro Fuenmayor, Kevin Garcia, Sam Junqua (Univ. of California), Adam Lundkvist, *Erik McCue (academy), Aljaz Struna (Palermo/ITA).
Midfielders (9): Eric Bird, Juan David Cabezas, Darwin Ceren, Boniek Garcia, Marlon Hairston (Colorado), Tomas Martinez, Tommy McNamara (NYCFC), Memo Rodriguez, Matias Vera (San Lorenzo/ARG).
Forwards (4): Alberth Elis, Mauro Manotas, Ronaldo Pena, Romell Quioto.
*2019 Homegrown signing.

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